A friend of mine got me into the Tinder game in 2014, when the app was at its peak with a billion swipes per day. I downloaded the app and was hooked. My first night I stayed up until three in the morning swiping and chatting it up with guys within a 25-mile radius of the Boston suburb I was living in.
Two years later, after deleting and reinstalling the app several times after a slew of fruitless relationships, I began to wonder how one is successful on Tinder. Or is success just measured by the amount of times you end up “hooking up”?
I spoke with some Tinder "experts" and a couple of habitual Tinder users, and got the following bits of (sometimes harsh) advice on how to make Tinder work best.
The Profile: Where It All Begins
When choosing photos for your Tinder account people typically try to put their best face forward. This is all well and good, but make sure those photos represent what you actually look like.
Many times on Tinder you will see people employ several gimmicks to try to cover up certain flaws. The best approach is just not to. You shouldn’t underestimate people’s ability to see right past what you are trying to hide. If the end goal of Tinder is a date, deception is not the best way to start a relationship. And they are going to actually see you.
One common misstep for men is to wear a hat in every single photo. Or even more telling, men whose photos are cut off at the forehead. If you do this, you are bald.
“Optimize your flaws. Do not hide them completely … If you are seriously balding, shave your head and rock that style,” suggests Tinder pro White Panda, author of "Tinder for Experts."
Most people are self-conscious about their weight. If you’re not, good for you and may you and your hot bod have a long happy life together. But, I know when guys ask me to send them selfies I suck in, or at the very least I’ll wear my control top leggings to compact all of the excess me.
However, don’t go overboard with these slimming tactics. “Top down angle will immediately let me know you are fat,” says Daniel, a ridiculously good looking 29-year-old Tinder user. Mind you, Daniel is ripped like a pair of deconstructed jeans.
Tinder is a visual app, so you should use all of the six photo slots to maximize your chances, according to White Panda. Having only a couple of photos arouses suspicion that you're hiding something.
“If you have only two or three photos I will just assume you are ugly, insecure or pretentiously trying to show how you are above the idea that this app is nothing more than a meat market,” says Daniel.
As for selfies, White Panda says it is not a “two-way street,” meaning it seems to be more appropriate for women to have selfies in their photos than it is for men.
“If a guy has lots of selfies that’s concerning," says Mel DeLancey, a Tinder whiz who has been on 150 dates and created Tinder Roulette, a musical memoir of her experiences. "Straight men don’t really do that much, but one ironic selfie if it’s a good picture could be okay.”
DeLancey also told me that one of the things that makes her immediately swipe left is a guy who has a photo of himself with a hot girl. She says it comes across as cocky and self-centered. There is already so much competition on Tinder, it’s not necessary to include more in your profile.
What you should do is include photos of traveling or your pets, since most people like both of those.
“Animal ones are good ones,” says Nicole, a 27-year-old habitual Tinder user who’s had her fair share of successes and failures on the app. “Even though you may be disgusting, I like your dog.”
Travel photos (this excludes family trips to Disney World) also give you something to talk about when you want to get the conversation started.
Beyond photos, there’s the 500-character limit description to work with. Across the board, everyone I spoke to agreed that the description should be short.
“The worst descriptions are when you talk too much…less is more. It just seems too eager and too sad to pour that much energy into that,” says Nicole.
If you want to go on and on about yourself, join OkCupid or Match.com. This is not the place for it.
You also shouldn’t try to be too serious and certainly do not try to be deep in your description. There is nothing more pretentious than someone trying to philosophize on a dating app that is mainly based on physical attraction.
I was sitting down with Nicole as we swiped through the Tinder men and we giggled at lots of profiles and discussed what makes a good one. Then we came across this winner. “Wandering soul with the dexterity of time,” Nicole read the description out loud. “Seriously? Go fuck yourself.” This kind of pseudointellectual drive will get you nowhere.
“Your photos need to do all the talking,” White Panda writes. Don’t try to describe yourself or your hobbies. If you want to come across as fun and carefree, express that in your photos.
Interacting: Online and In Person
Your first message should be engaging. Unless I am incredibly attracted, “Hey, what’s up?” just isn’t enough. You need something that will get your match’s attention, but also not seem desperate. Usually the best approach is to use some information from their profile to come out with an opening.
“Like if she says she’s into wine you could ask what her favorite wine spot in the city is … something that could lead to a followup question where she can also learn something about you as well,” says DeLancey.
Also, please spellcheck and be grammatically correct. For a lot of people, myself included, grammar is important when you are having a written dialogue with someone. Know the difference between your and you’re, and there, their and they’re.
If you come across as unintelligent, or even just too lazy to use the correct punctuation in the chat, your match will assume that the same is true of you in person.
When you do get around to the actual date, you might want to go casual. You don’t want to put in the time and energy into something that can potentially be a disaster.
“You have never met the person before, so nothing justifies putting in a lot of effort into this first meeting," White Panda writes. "In fact, if you go out of your way to plan something great, the woman will feel uncomfortable.”
Dinner is not a great first date. I had a dinner first date once and there was absolutely zero chemistry and an unbearable number of awkward silences. I had to order several glasses of wine to keep myself from digging my nails into my leg. He didn’t drink and I came across as an alcoholic. We never spoke again.
On the other hand, don’t talk too much. Some people like to hear themselves talk, but overlook the power of listening. There is nothing more annoying than a date who goes on and on about himself. The conversation should be a volley.
“If a guy keeps blabbing on, that’s how my drink gets to be very empty,” says Nicole.
If your date goes well and you want to secure a second meeting, congratulations. You’re not a complete lost cause.
Despite the success of the first date, it is important to remember not to get your hopes up. After all, you did find this individual through a lineup of thousands of men and women flashcards and more often than not, your date is back on Tinder the very next day.
Which is not to say Tinder cannot be used to find a meaningful relationship. People have been known to fall in love on it.
Even Daniel, who was adamant about Tinder being a hookup site, later revealed to me that he met a woman he describes as the “love of his life” on the app, and ended up dating her for eight months, before parting due to irreconcilable differences.
“It is no doubt a hookup site, but sometimes hookups can turn into something much more than that,” he told me.
“Just don’t have too many expectations," Nicole advises, "because you will encounter your fair share of bozos.”
Keep an open mind, don’t take anything too seriously until seriousness is genuinely called for, and just enjoy whatever experience comes your way. Even the worst Tinder interactions can at the very least become funny stories.
Tread lightly and happy swiping.